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Duck! It’s Perimenopause!

Niamh Daly December 30, 2020 0 comments 0

Can a duck possibly shed light on your perimenopause? Yes!

But you may have noticed that the cover-image in this article is not a duck. It’s a cormorant! They too will shed light on what you are experiencing.

Have you heard the phrase “like water off a duck’s back”? It’s a phrase we associate with an ability to allow stresses to pass over us and away, not ruffling our feathers, or causing us concern, and allowing us to stay in our sense of self, our calm. When events go over us like water off a duck’s back, we feel unshaken, and we stay light. If a duck didn’t have that capability to let water roll off its feathers, it would become heavy, sodden and cold.

Or would it?

Water doesn’t roll off the feathers of a cormorant. But cormorants have figured out how to continue to be able to do what they need to do to thrive.

Science bit: there is a gland towards the tail of most aquatic birds that produces oil that the bird disperses when preening their feathers. It keeps them warm, and stops water being absorbed. Cormorants lack this oil and need to take time to stop and dry their feathers. The lack of oil allows them to dive deeper than most other fishing birds.

So perhaps if other aquatic birds lacked the oil they would have learnt to do the same as cormorants and have survived because of their ability to change (that’s a whole other blog-post on a theme of Darwin!).

The not-so-science bit:

  • Oestrogen and progesterone are the oil.
  • Perimenopause is the evolutionary bit when a duck realises her oil gland has stopped producing oil and flails around trying to figure out how the hell to survive in the same way as all the other ducks!
  • Menopause, if we let it, can be us beginning to accept we might need to live a little differently to prevent us getting weighed down.
  • Post menopause, if we let it, can be when we have fully learnt from the cormorant. It’s when we have learnt to live without the oil!

Read on to find out how we can make it so…

Because it’s not just a metaphor.

Along with an array of other benefits, Oestrogen and progesterone have buffering qualities that protect us from the effects of stress, so that it doesn’t all saturate our feathers, if you will.

Without oestrogen in particular we can feel more sensitive to a lot of things, and if anyone says to us that we’re taking stuff more seriously than we used to, or we seem to have a short fuse, or that we’re easy to upset, we may see red!

But under that is the fact that these things are true.

This is not because we are becoming “the bitch from hell” (as I have heard too many of my clients describe themselves), or losing it, or becoming weak. Its because we are noticing the effects of life in a way that we may not have done before.

This is because we are emerging from our oestrogen bubble. The oil on our feathers is disappearing, and we can no longer let the insults of life slide off our backs.

That sounds difficult right?

But what kind of duck you choose to be will determine whether that is a burden or a gift!

Say you decide :

  • To feel the weight of those struggles sit on your feathers until they impregnate them irreversibly.
  • That all this intensity of experience is only negative, and the only option is to collapse under its weight.


  • It becomes too scary to go for a pleasant float around the pond with your friends.
  • It feels impossible to mind anyone because you only have the strength to drag around your own overburdened feathers.
  • It means you nibble on unsatisfying grasses around the edge of your beloved habitat, instead of going into the thick of things and enjoying the nourishment available in the rich centre of your world.

But what if you learn from the cormorant?

Then you decide:

  • To  notice which kinds of stresses weigh your feathers down the most.
  • To avoid the worst of those stresses.
  • To embrace your newfound awareness of what is a burden worth bearing and what is really not ok, thank you very much.
  • To take the moments you need to stop hunting, fishing, minding and preening, and instead spread your wings to let them dry in the clear air.


  • You learn to say no because you recognise your new limits.
  • You learn to say no because you recognise your new needs.
  • You learn to say yes to that which lets you feel better.
  • You learn to say yes to time to stop and recalibrate.
  • You learn that if you do what your body needs you don’t go down under the weight so readily.
  • You learn that in accepting the biological reason for the change in you, you become less hard on yourself.
  • You learn that perhaps you are not becoming less than you were, but are evolving into a more sensitised version of yourself.
  • You remember that cormorants get to nourish themselves from much deeper resources of the ocean than any of their oily pals!

Perhaps, because of our oestrogen- and progesterone-supported ability to let things go, like water off a duck’s back, the world has felt like it could throw more crap our way than was reasonable.

My wish for you is that you may see the positives of the decline in those buffering hormones, for instance:

  • The fact that, perhaps for the first time in your life, you know when you have had enough.
  • You place value in knowing when the demands on you have become unacceptable.
  • You see that society, social media and a lifetime of expectation of what a woman “should” be have caused us to expect more of ourselves than is reasonable.
  • You become able to trust that adapting to your new body can be life-affirming.
  • You begin to recognise that you can thrive and find new riches.

May you spread your wings as you proudly stand, embracing the new air as it makes its way to the parts of you that have not felt free in a long, long time.

If you would like me to help you learn how to adapt to the many changes you are experiencing, have a look here for ways to let me support you.

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